Start-Up

The tight-knit business community and collaborative culture of the Northern Netherlands makes fertile ground for innovative start-ups across a wide range of industries. Well-established firms are always willing to give the youngsters a hand, and the communities of start-up ecosystems, accelerators and shared facilities makes the sharing of knowledge and skills all that easier.

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Dutch start-up ecosystem

1. A nation of start-ups

The Netherlands is a top-five start-up hotspot in Europe, with a government committed to supporting the innovation-leaders of tomorrow. We’re a small country, but our start-ups are making a big impact, attracting high levels of talent and capital from across the globe.

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The Netherlands’ ambitious business environment for start-ups, access to quality talent and supportive state led Startup Blink to name us the forth strongest start-up ecosystem in the European Union on their 2022 rankings.

The plan provides start-ups with better access to capital, knowledge, innovation and the global market.

In 2021 we had the third heaviest start-up density in the European Union. Being a start-up in the
Netherlands means being a part of a network of like-minded, ambitious entrepreneurs.

Between 2017 and 2021, we raised the third largest share of VC funds in the European region weighted for GDP and population, after the UK and France. In particular, we were the most capitalized
relative to our population, seeing nearly four times the proportion of total funding compared to our proportion of Europe’s population.

No wonder WIPO ranked us the third strongest market globally in terms of finance for start-ups and scale-ups on their Global Innovation Index 2022

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VC investment as a proportion of Europe’s population 2018 - 2021.

The TopDutch start-up ecosystem

2. Fastest growing start-up ecosystem

Within the Netherlands, the TopDutch region is a hotspot for impactful new start-ups, the birthplace of unicorns such as HackerOne. We host the nation’s fastest growing start-up ecosystem, growth that is supported by our dedicated innovation institutions.

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The province has grown by an average of over 12% per annum for each year since 2018, equating to over 1,200 new start-up jobs within 4 years.

Our provinces of Drenthe and Friesland are also powerful catalysts, with Frisian start-ups raising €22.7M in VC funding in 2022 and Drenthe employing over 600 people across 40 start-ups.

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TopDutch’s supportive environment has laid the foundations for some of the world’s most exciting tech start-ups and scale-ups.

  • Take, for example, HackerOne – recently ranked number 5 in Fast Company’s ‘Most Innovative Companies’ – which was born in the TopDutch region and now has branches across the world.
  • Or Catawiki, who was Europe’s fastest-growing tech company when it scaled-up by 45000% in a year.

Growth is supported by our tight-knit communities of start-ups, scale-ups and established firms, who can connect, collaborate, and knowledge-share via our dedicated innovation institutions; Founded in Groningen, Founded in Friesland and Ik Ben Drents Ondernemer.

They are dedicated to supporting more high-quality start-ups from pre-seed to scale-up via four pillars of development:

  1. Access to talent – stimulating the development of a diverse and entrepreneurial pool of talent across a variety of walks of life (e.g. students, researchers, experienced workers, medics etc.) and supporting their start-up ambitions.
  2. Access to technology – closing the gap between (new) technologies and new business solutions.
  3. Access to market – facilitating access to the market for start-ups by organizing regional public and private launching customer initiatives, networking opportunities and (international) missions.
  4. Access to capital – creating an optimal investment climate in the TopDutch region so that start-ups and scale-ups throughout every life stage have easier access to the best financing, subsidies, schemes, financers and investor-readiness training.

Our relocation services

3. Make yourself at home with our relocation services

In the TopDutch region we believe that innovation should know no borders. That’s why we facilitate talented entrepreneurs from across the globe to start-up in the TopDutch region. N.V. NOM sets up founders with innovative ideas with help to gain a visa to live and work in the Netherlands, connect with local industry leaders to mentor their business development, and help them settle into the region both professionally and personally.

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Setting up business in a foreign country can bring about great benefits. But it also means taking on a host of new challenges. Through N.V. NOM, we’re ready to help you with every stage of the process in (re)locating your business to the TopDutch region.

  • Our professionals in finance, location/acquisition, business development and networking are here to give businesses from around the world a helping hand.
  • We know the TopDutch region inside out, and TopDutch industries know us. We know the best business locations, which permits you need to have, who the best energy suppliers are, how to find your dream talent, which subsidiaries or grants you may be eligible for, and how to access them.
  • We can help you with capital or know who to connect you with. How we can help your business?

And we believe that innovation should know no borders. The Start-Up Visa NL program is a unique accelerator program that allows the brightest entrepreneurial talent from non-EU/EEA countries to start-up in the TopDutch region.
• The TopDutch region provides opportunities for some of the most promising entrepreneurial talent from across the globe to find their home in the region.
• Non-EU/EEA entrepreneurs can arrive in the Netherlands on a one year startup visa, the duration of which is spent establishing their
business and their skills.
• Not sure where to start? The Startup Visa NL crew matches startups with our facilitators free of charge, so that both parties can focus on what’s really important: building a successful company.
• At the end of the startup visa year, entrepreneurs can apply for a long-term self-employment visa, and we’ll provide support in accessing any further financing, partners, or business development programs needed to succeed in the TopDutch region.


Programs & financing

4.Take the next step with our business development programs & financing options

The TopDutch region is committed to developing a start-up ecosystem that will help us continue to lead the global transition and create smart and sustainable solutions to global challenges. We are doing that by cross-chain programmatic development. From pre-seed to scale-up, our services and programs support entrepreneurial talent to take the first step, inviting promising internationals to join us, and facilitating their development via incubators and training.

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Do you have an innovative business idea that you think aligns with TopDutch’s ambitions to build smart and sustainable solutions to global challenges? We offer a supportive base for you to develop your product or service from fundamental research, developing a proof of concept (PoC) to developing, validating and piloting a prototype.

Financing options

  • Grants: Depending on your product, there are a number of different grant schemes that can help you with fundamental research (TRL 1), applied research (TRL 2) and proof of concept (TRL 3). For example, the MIT feasibility scheme provides SMEs in the TopDutch region with a idea that aligns with one of our missions with up to €20,000 to perform a feasibility study. Or researchers collaborating with other local partners on a knowledge development project or valorization project that will help us lead the transition to a smarter, healthier and more sustainable future can apply for a grant from the Just Transition Fund of up to €4,000,000.
  • Proof of Concept fund: Entrepreneurs developing their PoC to a test prototype (TRL 4), validating (TRL 5) and demonstrating (TRL 6 and 7) their prototype can access the Proof of Concept fund launched by the University of Groningen, the University Medical Center Groningen (Triade), the Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and the Groningen Investment Fund (GIF). This offers pre-seed investment for high tech start-ups working in one of our key industries (Life Sciences & Health, Digital Innovation, High Tech Systems and Materials, Green Chemistry, WaterTech, Green Energy), or on a solution for sustainability and circularity challenges.
  • RVO early stage funding: SMEs, innovative start-ups and spin-offs discovering and developing an innovative solution to a societal challenge, and have a statement of intent from a future investor, can apply for a proof of concept loan from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). For the technological development of a new product, process or service, or the clinical development of a new drug or medical device, entrepreneurs between TRL 3 and 9 can also apply for up to €10 million Innovation Credit from the RVO.
  • Institutional investors: Institutional investors with an active investing mode include (but are not limited to) RUG-Ventures, Hanzepoort (Triade/UMCG) and NOM (the Investment and Development Agency of the Northern Netherlands). Together with a diverse scope of semi-public investors they are accountable for a large slice of the investment cake in the TopDutch region.

Programs

  • University of Groningen (RUG): The University of Groningen’s Faculty of Science and Engineering and Faculty of Economics and Business offers various business development support programs, both to support existing students or researchers to spin-off from the university, and by offering collaboration opportunities for fundamental research.
  • Venture Lab North: The Business Development Program from VentureLab North offers aspiring entrepreneurs with an innovative idea and a vision for a successful business a one-year business development program. Through three core components – 1) weekly workshops with a community of industry experts, ecosystem leaders and researchers, 2) one-to-one mentoring sessions and 3) quarterly pitch presentations to a panel of TopDutch entrepreneurs and thought leaders – the program supports its participants to develop a valid prototype. VentureLab North also offers ‘hackathon’-style weekends to help aspiring entrepreneurs sound and test their ideas, develop business models and pitch to an experienced jury, and monthly expert lectures and networking events.
  • Start-up Readiness Program: Are you ambitious and do you have a startup idea? Do you want to bring a new, innovative product to the market as a (potential) entrepreneur? But are you not sure which market to focus on or who your customers are? A good start is half the battle! The Startup Readiness Program is a ten-week program consisting of four different modules that you can participate in as a startup and that will take you towards the next step to a successful startup. The program consists of group sessions, peer-to-peer, and individual coaching.
  • Start-up in Residence: Start-Up in Residence Noord-Nederland is an accelerator program which offers start-ups the opportunity to collaborate with local government, universities and other public institutions from the TopDutch region on solutions for 12 different challenges facing our communities. During the six-month program, entrepreneurs receive support and guidance from professional coaches to further develop their idea and prototype into a viable product. Once the solution is market-ready, the public sector challenge owners will also act as a launching customer for the most promising products.

Are you an innovative start-up in looking to fine-tune your market development? The TopDutch region supports founders to discover their customer, test and demonstrate their concept until its ready for take-off.

Financing options

  • Institutional investors: Institutional investors with an active investing mode include (but are not limited to) RUG-Ventures, Hanzepoort (Triade/UMCG) and NOM (the Investment and Development Agency of the Northern Netherlands). Together with a diverse scope of semi-public investors they are accountable for a large slice of the investment cake in the TopDutch region.
  • Angel network: SMEs counts for over 90% of business in the TopDutch region. Former entrepreneurs regularly re-invest in the region and bring their own expertise. Our region’s cooperative culture created well-organized business angel networks which spread out nationally and even globally, and our open attitude means we invite and support innovative international entrepreneurs to access them.
  • Venture Capital: We offer access to our deep contacts with a variety of Venture Capital investors by fund-in-fund relations. In TopDutch, you’ll discover a broad network of expertise, (inter)national contacts, (former) entrepreneurs, specialists and key opinion leaders. Our focus is on, but not excluded to, Life Sciences and Health, Digital, High Tech Systems and Materials, Green Chemistry, WaterTech, the energy transition, sustainability and circularity.

Programs

  • Market Readiness Program: Innovative start-ups looking to fine-tune their market development – for example by testing their working prototype on potential clients, connecting with their first paying customer, or by expanding their existing positioning to acquire new clients – can accelerate with the MRP.

During a ten week program, together with fellow TopDutch entrepreneurs, you’ll test all your assumptions about your customer. In a mix of one-to-one and group sessions, you work on the questions “what problems do customers in my market have? and “how can I offer a solution?”. Throughout the course you’ll learn to engage in effective conversations with your customers, so you can think from their perspective and validate solutions in cooperation with your target group.
The first half of the program will look at your market, customer types, customer problems and devise a potential solution. After you’ve developed, tested and validated your solution, you’ll get stuck into developing your product or business model with a deeper understanding the customer.

  • Start-up in Residence: Start-Up in Residence Noord-Nederland is an accelerator program which offers start-ups the opportunity to collaborate with local government, universities and other public institutions from the TopDutch region on solutions for 12 different challenges facing our communities. During the six-month program, entrepreneurs receive support and guidance from professional coaches to further develop their idea and prototype into a viable product. Once the solution is market-ready, the public sector challenge owners will also act as a launching customer for the most promising products.

Investor Readiness Program: Are you an innovative start-up with growth ambitions, and need to develop a quality investment proposal in order to secure capital for further development, professionalization or scaling-up?  Do you offer an innovative product or service with a working prototype and a technically, commercially and financially feasible concept?
In a customized , one-on-one program, the IRP will help you will develop a promising proposal which will help convince investors to inject capital into your company’s growth. Our business developers will coach you on all aspects of your business case: From the product, to market validation, business plan, and financing strategy.
Throughout the program, you will also have extra meetings where you can get feedback on your proposal from other participants, our partners and potential investors. Once the program is completed, and you’ve developed a concrete investment proposal, we’ll help you connect with the investor that’s right for you.

  • Bestart: The BeStart accelerator programme for ClimateTech start-ups lasts one year and goes through three stages: Build, Launch and Scale. In the ‘build phase’ bootcamp helps participants to validate their business idea and develop it into a business model and strategy. The ‘launch phase’ sees you meet weekly with your business coach to develop a growth map for your business. In the ‘scale phase’, Bestart offers guidance on how to make the right choices in a focused way in order to keep moving forward.

Are you a start-up whose innovative product or service has an early evangelical customer base? The TopDutch region offers financing options and business development programs that supports you to set up a scalable sales process and a solid business plan to allow you to meet your growth ambitions.

Financing options

  • Institutional investors: Institutional investors with an active investing mode include (but are not limited to) RUG-Ventures, Hanzepoort (Triade/UMCG) and NOM (the Investment and Development Agency of the Northern Netherlands). Together with a diverse scope of semi-public investors they are accountable for a large slice of the investment cake in the TopDutch region.
  • Angel network: SMEs counts for over 90% of business in the TopDutch region. Former entrepreneurs regularly re-invest in the region and bring their own expertise. Our region’s cooperative culture created well-organized business angel networks which spread out nationally and even globally, and our open attitude means we invite and support innovative international entrepreneurs to access them.
  • Venture Capital: We offer access to our deep contacts with a variety of Venture Capital investors by fund-in-fund relations. In TopDutch, you’ll discover a broad network of expertise, (inter)national contacts, (former) entrepreneurs, specialists and key opinion leaders. Our focus is on, but not excluded to, Life Sciences and Health, Digital, High Tech Systems and Materials, Green Chemistry, WaterTech, the energy transition, sustainability and circularity.

Programs

  • Boost-up: Ambitious start-ups with growth potential are supported securing their next round of investment with the Boost-up program. After an initial pitch and sparring sessions, you are matched with a business partner that provides constructive criticism, works with you to finetune your business plan with strategic choices in operations, marketing and sales,

and introduces you to the knowledge, capital and network you need to grow at your final partners pitch.

  • Investor Readiness Program: Are you an innovative start-up with growth ambitions, and need to develop a quality investment proposal in order to secure capital for further development, professionalization or scaling-up?  Do you offer an innovative product or service with a working prototype and a technically, commercially and financially feasible concept?

In a customized , one-on-one program, the IRP will help you will develop a promising proposal which will help convince investors to inject capital into your company’s growth. Our business developers will coach you on all aspects of your business case: From the product, to market validation, business plan, and financing strategy.

Throughout the program, you will also have extra meetings where you can get feedback on your proposal from other participants, our partners and potential investors. Once the program is completed, and you’ve developed a concrete investment proposal, we’ll help you connect with the investor that’s right for you.

  • Bestart: The BeStart accelerator programme for ClimateTech start-ups lasts one year and goes through three stages: Build, Launch and Scale. In the ‘build phase’ bootcamp helps participants to validate their business idea and develop it into a business model and strategy. The ‘launch phase’ sees you meet weekly with your business coach to develop a growth map for your business. In the ‘scale phase’, Bestart offers guidance on how to make the right choices in a focused way in order to keep moving forward.

Are you are an established start-up looking to scale-up or expand in the TopDutch region? If you’re ready to take the next step in your business journey, TopDutch will help you take advantage of the opportunities the region’s supportive start-up ecosystem and strong economy have to offer you.

Financing options

  • Venture Capital: We offer access to our deep contacts with a variety of Venture Capital investors by fund-in-fund relations. In TopDutch, you’ll discover a broad network of expertise, (inter)national contacts, (former) entrepreneurs, specialists and key opinion leaders. Our focus is on, but not excluded to, Life Sciences and Health, Digital, High Tech Systems and Materials, Green Chemistry, WaterTech, the energy transition, sustainability and circularity.

Institutional investors: Institutional investors with an active investing mode include (but are not limited to) RUG-Ventures, Hanzepoort (Triade/UMCG) and NOM (the Investment and Development Agency of the Northern Netherlands). Together with a diverse scope of semi-public investors they are accountable for a large slice of the investment cake in the TopDutch region.

  • Strategic investors and Private Equity: Our extensive (inter)national network of SME’s and multinationals ensures TopDutch scale-ups eyes and ears around the world. This is only strengthened through our direct connection with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency. On a daily basis, we are in search of valuable contacts worldwide to find suitable strategic partners for businesses in the Northern Netherlands.

Personalized business development and location services

Besides the nine start-up programs, we provide more established start-up and scale-ups with a personalized business development assessment, access to our network of investors and financing options, and location services – of course in terms of finding the perfect spot for you – but also sharing our knowledge on factors like regulation, taxation, subsidies and finding talent.



Our process

Get started

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1. Get in touch
Through our TopDutch contact page, by email or direct to your dedicated industry project manager, get in touch to start the conversation.

2. Alignment meeting
We’ll schedule a meeting with you and our regional dedicated project team to identify your needs and align objectives.

3. Network Roundtable
Based on your start-up needs, we’ll set up a roundtable with your future network. This could include a facilitator, investors or industry buddies, for example.

4. Personalized start-up plan
Your dedicated project manager will draw up a personalized start-up package, with a checklist of arrangements and practicalities needed to successfully start-up in TopDutch, and a plan of how they’ll support you.

5. Settle into TopDutch
The IWCN helps with the boring stuff (bureaucratic or practical matters) and the fun stuff (like meeting new friends!) Meaning you can jump right in to supercharging your start-up.

6. Business development
The NOM offers a number of
business development programs for (foreign) talent to set up
business in the region. Mix and match our programs to tailor a
personalized track that matches your needs.

7. Facilitating financing
Has your business reached the next level, and you need an injection of capital to achieve your potential? The NOM, alongside its own investment fund, provides access to their network of financiers, and will connect you with an investor who works for you.

8. Always a helping hand
Your dedicated project manager will draw up a personalized start-up package, with a checklist of arrangements and practicalities needed to successfully start-up in TopDutch, and a plan of how they’ll support you.


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